Believe it or Not: Cohere Coworking is Now Valued at…

 

Tech SupportCohere, the Fort Collins, Colorado-based coworking space that specializes in being awesome, has just raised $0 million in a round of funding. The deal values the company at a whopping $.00000000000000000000001 billion, according to Founder, Angel Kwiatkowski.

It’s a decent price for what is essentially a sharing hub of friendship and unlimited coffee. But Cohere’s business model, which combines real people with each other, plays into the “sharing economy” trend that has captivated hardly any investors for itself in recent years.

In addition to its modest physical footprint, which includes 2 spaces in this one city with one more on the way, Cohere also recently debuted its own social network, called “turn around and talk to your neighbor in person.” It’s similar to LinkedIn, in that it’s a business networking site, but it’s not infuriating to use nor does it generate 27 emails every hour to its members.

As Angel Kwiatkowski, Cohere’s community manager, told a friend when Cohere launched, the goal was to accommodate all the people who fill up coffee shops and pajama pants at home. “We literally cannot make coffee fast enough,” she said. “I get the feeling that there is much larger demand for donuts and coffee in coworking spaces than we ever anticipated.”

Now, however, Cohere has more demand for more toilet paper. “We happen to need two-ply just like Uber happens to need cars, just like Airbnb happens to need apartments,” Cohere co-founder Angel Kwiatkowski told a concerned member.

But Cohere’s approach is not more or less risky than Uber’s or Airbnb’s. Unlike either of those companies, which essentially act as marketplaces for independent drivers and home owners, Cohere leases all the physical space, itself, and for now, that’s working out well for the company. Thanks to a marginally positive checking account balance, many of the members who occupy Cohere’s spaces are capable of paying for a monthly membership.

So it’s no wonder Cohere’s getting while the getting’s good. The question is: what happens when the coffee dries up or—dare we say it—the bubble bursts?

Tea. The answer is hot tea.

Why You Need A Few Days Off (And Why That’s OK)

Out of office vacation

The average freelancer works almost twice as long as the average nine-to-five employee. So, why is it that we feel guilty taking some time off for the holidays?

No matter how you celebrate, the holidays are a time for sleeping ridiculously late, eating way too much, spiking the egg nog, and hugging everyone you know.

To that end, the holidays are one time of the year when traditional workers have an advantage over the freelancer: They get PTO, and we get guilt. The average 9 to 5-er waits for the clock to hit quitting time, and bolts out the door. The thought of the emails waiting to be answered or presentations to be assembled won’t cross their mind again until Monday morning.

Here’s the difference: most freelancers love what they do.

We are obsessed. We think about our business every waking moment. We’re always networking, worrying about clients, checking our published work to make sure our names are spelled correctly. While we are completely in charge of when we get work done, the thinking about it never stops. We ALWAYS feel like we should be getting work done.

Maybe it’s because we still don’t feel like our job is as legitimate as one that happens in an office. Or maybe the lack of a salary safety net makes us feel uneasy about earning a few hours less this month.

Whatever the reason, I’m here to tell you that the guilt you’re feeling is unfounded, and you totally deserve a day (or seven) to completely unplug from your business.

This is not the corporate grind. You’re not competing for the corner office. You’re building a business, a legacy. You’re in there for the long hall. The work will always be here, but your friends, family, and the opportunity to make memories with them may not.

So go ahead. Activate that “out of office” email response a few days early. I know you planned to work right up until Christmas Eve, but I’m challenging you to scrap that plan. Bake 1,500 gingerbread cookies with your kids. Craft some presents for your best friends. Stay in your pajamas and read a book all day.

I’m writing you a prescription for laziness and self-indulgence. Take daily and repeat as needed. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel when it’s time to be brilliant. Next year.

Happy Holidays Cohere!!!

Image Credit: Flickr – Victor Bezrukov

Why Every Freelancer Should Use A Client Survey

How do you gauge client satisfaction with your work?

A) They tell me how great it is. B) They refer a friend. C) They post a link to it on Facebook. D) I assume that if they pay, they were satisfied.

Although you might be able to imply satisfaction from some of these actions, the insight is more speculation than fact. As a freelancer, it’s important to utilize all available avenues for improving your business and that means making sure your customers are truly satisfied.

And that means you have to ask.

Big companies know the value of a good customer satisfaction survey. They’ll beg and plead and tempt you with gifts just to get you to fill it out. They know that honest feedback straight from the customer’s mouth is a priceless asset. It provides direction and helps fine-tune services so that first-time customers become loyal clients.

Here are some reasons why you should think about implementing a client satisfaction survey, even if you’ve only got a handful of clients (and even if you think they’re relatively happy).

  • While you may think that you have a pretty good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are, do you have the client’s perspective? Without it, you can’t really be sure that you are providing good service.
  • Conducting a survey also shows that you care about you clients and their opinions.
  • Not only can they help you identify those clients who are happy, they can also make you aware of problems and potential problems, as well as give you an idea of what new products or services would be well received.

How To Conduct A Client Survey

You don’t need a fancy direct mail campaign to conduct a good client survey. How do you usually communicate with your clients; email? Phone? Face to face? The answer will tell you how to issue the survey.

When developing questions, first think about how long your clients will be willing to spend answering them. Five to ten minutes is usually a good guideline. Remember that short answer questions take longer than choosing between ‘very satisfied, neutral and very dissatisfied.’ And be sure to TELL THEM how long it should take when you introduce the survey.

If no one responds within a day or two, send a reminder that explains why their opinion is important to you. People are busy, and things get forgotten. Don’t nag- or the answers might not be so rosy.

3 Essential Questions

Making a client satisfaction survey gives you the power to ask anything you want to know! But these three questions should be at the root of everything you ask. And if you use only these three, you’ll still have a pretty good survey.

  1. Why do you enjoy being my client?
  2. What else do you wish my business did?
  3. Who should you tell about my business?
For ideas about other questions to ask on your survey, check out this FreelanceFolder post.

Have you ever used a client satisfaction survey? Tell us about it in the comments!

Image Credit: Flickr – roland

Coworking Tips: How To Collaborate With Other Freelancers

Coworking and collaboration

Last week I wrote about mentoring new freelancers as a way to become more involved in the coworking community. This week, I’d like to take a look at another way to help create a vibrant, more connected community: hiring your friends and fellow members.

For many business owners, the words “hiring your friends” set off multiple alarms and warning whistles. Working with friends and family members can be a recipe for disaster…unless you know how to do it right.

With the proper preparation and foresight, collaborating with fellow coworking members can reduce stress, improve the quality of your product, and enrich your life as a community member.

Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for a collaborator:

Don’t assume that because you know them, they’re the right freelancer for the job. Whether it’s with your best friend or the newest member of your coworking space, a collaboration will only be successful if you choose the right person for the job. Look at integrity as well as ability. Think about the way they conduct themselves with fellow members and their clients. They might be good for a laugh, but will they buckle down when the deadline’s looming?

Walk softly, and carry a comprehensive contract. It’s one thing to offer your coworker $20 to edit an article you wrote. It’s another to invite them to be part of a three-month project. Contracts define who is responsible for what, and when it needs to be delivered. Oh yeah, and how much everyone gets paid. If there’s money involved, using a contract shows that you respect your collaborator, and want to make sure they are protected as well. DO IT.

Don’t be a dick. Just because you’re entering into a business relationship doesn’t mean you have to forget that you are friends. Or at least friendly acquaintances. Be flexible. Understand (within reason) life happens. Try to divide and conquer work in a way that’s comfortable for everyone involved. The best collaborations will feel like they were meant to be, and quality work will flow naturally from their formation.

Don’t be a pushover. In your zeal to be accommodating, don’t forget that you’re a businessperson with a job to do. If someone’s slacking, don’t be afraid to say something. It will only cause you stress and cost you money if you don’t.

Collaboration Checklist via Freelance Folder:

  • Does that person have any special skills?
  • Will it be beneficial for both of you?
  • How well do you know this person?
  • Is the person financially stable? (will you get paid?)
  • Is this person reliable? Punctual, honest, hard-working?
  • Can you delegate tasks to this person? (vice-versa)
  • What would happen if you ever disagree on something business related? Something personal?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • Who gets the credit?
  • How will the pay is to be divided?

Have you ever collaborated with a fellow freelancer? Would you do it again? Share your experience in a comment!

Get Involved: 3 Reasons To Become A Freelancing Mentor

Coworking Mentoring

Lately, there’s been some talk among coworking space owners about how to build a community of coworkers, not just a community of desk renters.

Coworking has the ability to transform individual careers and invigorate local economies, but only when members use their talent and personality to take it to a level above desk-sharing.

Space owners and community managers can do their best to provide intentional avenues to get people talking, but at the end of the day when there’s no event scheduled the community will only thrive if members aren’t afraid to step outside their comfort zones and talk to each other without needing a staff person to help them do it.

The freelance industry is exploding. Everyday, fresh new faces join the trend, excited but completely unprepared for the challenges ahead. (Remember, that was you once!)

If you’re the slightly introverted type, and would rather plug-in and crank out work than conversate, consider this:

1. Sharing Is Caring: We all know how hard it is to be the new kid. In fact, that’s why lots of us got off the corporate merry-go-round in the first place. Coworking is supposed to be different, but once a community is established, it’s easy to fall into the same routines, slogging to our usual spot, plugging-in and checking out. Mentoring doesn’t need to be a formal process, it’s as easy as taking an interest in a new member’s profession, or asking them out to lunch. Asking about how a project’s progressing, offering to give feedback, or making a professional introduction are all easy ways to make a big impact in a fellow-coworker’s day.

2. Teaching Makes You An Expert: Have you hit a professional plateau? Feel like you’re at the top of your game, and the challenge has suddenly disappeared? Taking a less-experienced freelancer under your wing is a great way to put your treasure-trove of knowledge and experience to work. If you’ve always wanted to try consulting or public speaking, one on one mentoring is a great way to test the waters and build your reputation as an expert.

3. Help A Noob Avoid Mistakes: While there are some trials of business ownership that must be experienced, lots of mistakes could be avoided if only there was someone to tell you what to look out for. Baby freelancers are full of questions, and just dying for someone to answer them. Make yourself available. Chime in when someone’s struggling with an issue you’ve already conquered. Not only will you be helping to cultivate a more vibrant coworking community, you’ll be building major karma points as well.

Would you be willing to help a new freelancer learn the ropes? Or, if you’re new to freelancing, would you like to find a mentor? Share your thoughts in a comment!

 

Image Credit: Flickr – IK’s World Trip

 

3 Free Tools Every Freelancer Should Know About

It’s back to school time, and all the little kiddos are filling up their backpacks and messenger bags with the tools of the trade: pencils, notebooks, graphing calculators, etc.

Which got me to thinking: what tools should freelancers have in their arsenal to make it easier to attract new clients and run their business like a business?

After a little poking around I found these completely free, online tools that can help you get better results from what you’re already doing in an organized fashion:

1. FreelanceSwitch Hourly Rate Calculator: We’ve talked a lot about raising your rates, and sticking to your guns when overly-thrifty clients challenge them. But how exactly do you decide on an hourly rate that will truly help cover your expenses now and in the future? Well the clever folks over at FreelanceSwitch created just the tool to help you do that: In just 5-20 minutes, you’ll have a guideline for the necessary hourly rate based on your costs, number of billable hours and desired profit.

2. BranchOut: There are dozens of referral sites, professional directories, and networking communities available online. At this point, however, most of the people you know or want to know are already using Facebook, so why start from scratch? BranchOut is an application that effortlessly unlocks massive amounts of career data about your friends and friends of friends that was just impossible to get to before.

3. SimplifyThis.com – Tired of entering appointments into Google calendar, calculating billable hours in a spreadsheet, and then issuing invoices with a third tool? SimplifyThis (what a great name, huh?) is both an appointment book for keeping track of your meetings, and any of those that might be billable, as well as a full invoicing service with payment gateway integrations.

Share your favorite free tools for staying organized (and sane) in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr –  L. Marie

3 Reasons Some Freelancers Should NOT Try Coworking

Tomorrow is International Coworking Day. That means a lot of over enthusiastic freelancers are probably going to convince you to give coworking a try. But change is hard, and often uncomfortable, so here are three reasons why you should just ignore them and go back to whatever it is you were doing.

1. Coworkers are WAY too motivated. Because freelancers who cowork find it easier to keep their professional and personal life separate, they’re actually excited to put their skills to work. And on the rare occasion when a coworker has writer’s block or suffers from a bad case of procrastination, their fellow freelancers are on hand to talk it out or provide a little nudge in the right direction. If you prefer watching daytime TV and cramming all your work into the three hours before a project’s due, avoid coworking at all costs.

2. Coworkers get dressed (and brush their teeth) every day. Don’t these people realize that pajama pants, bed head, and poor oral hygiene are the freelancer’s uniform? Be careful, getting too involved in a coworking community could result in morning time energy and a desire to be around other people. You may be persuaded to comb your hair, put on makeup and do laundry on a regular basis. If you prefer comfort over community, avoid coworking at all costs.

3. Coworking will force you to advance your career. Coworkers take the time to continue their education so they can stay at the top of their game. They attend workshops, seminars, and networking events. They ask questions of their peers and get instant feedback from community members that helps them provide superior services to their clients. They challenge each other to remain competitive in their respective fields. If you’re happy with the slow growth of your freelance business, and don’t want to start pulling in more money or clients just yet, please, AVOID COWORKING AT ALL COSTS!

(But! If you’re the kind of freelancer that craves the support of a vibrant, motivated community, and is ready to meet deadlines, put on pants, and take your career to the next level….please, GIVE COWORKING A TRY!)

Image Credit: Flickr – tofslie

What Freelancers Should Know About Google Plus

Hoping that the third time’s the charm (remember Buzz and Wave?) the company behind the world’s top search engine recently launched a new social networking platform: Google+.

If you’ve been on any of the other well-established social media sites in the past week, chances are you’ve heard a peep or two about it.

Let’s be serious, the notion that the web’s best search service has launched a social network that could combine the intuition of Facebook and the speed of Twitter with possibilities for seamless integration into any existing Google tool is enough to make nerds quiver with excitement.

However, the idea of learning how to use a new social media tool correctly and efficiently hardly brings on the same jovial feelings. Let’s face it, until you know what you’re doing, using social media can be a time suck as well as a frustrating endeavor.

As freelancers with limited time, the big question is: Should we bother?

Here are some thoughts gleaned from freelancing experts and social media “gurus” around the web:

1. Ease into it: Go ahead and create a personal profile (if you can get an invite) and play around in your spare time, but don’t worry about migrating your business profile just yet. Chances are, you’ve had at least a few contacts “add you to their circles” and if you’ve got a few minutes, it’s worth poking around in the tool. Hell, if you’ve got gmail, that only takes one click. But for now, the “business experience” is still under development and Google is actually asking businesses and freelancers to avoid using “consumer profiles” for business purposes. When it’s ready, Google+ will have “rich analytics” and will be easy to integrate with Google Adwords and other goodies.

2. Get a jump on success: If your business is social media marketing, SEO, or content marketing, waiting too long to check out what Google+ has to offer could hurt you. This is the new frontier, and just like with Facebook and Twitter a few years ago, the people who figure out new and creative ways to engage online communities with this tool today will be the experts of tomorrow. Watch the platform carefully, look for avenues of opportunity nobody else is taking full advantage of, and move in with your own particular sales pitch.

3. Savvy sharing: Privacy and segmented sharing (two things that Twitter and Facebook have trouble with) are both prominent features of Google+. By creating circles of contacts, you make it possible to share links, ideas, pictures and more with only those that will appreciate it most (or judge you least). This has big implications for businesses and freelancers who are always looking for more efficient ways to communicate with their current clients as well as potential customers.

4. Impact your page rank: It’s also worth knowing that Google+ users themselves now have the opportunity to “vote” on the value of content and ultimately impact search engine rankings. This has the potential to level the page rank playing field, as simple blog post with 3,000 votes on Google+ may very well beat out a similar story with only 300 votes on a  major website. In the future, this may make SEO copywriting obsolete.

For more on Google+ and all it’s shiny possibilities, listen to Google PR Strategist David Allen talk about about an “optimized business experience” for Google+ in the video below.

And if it’s really keeping you awake at night, here are some additional resources:

Sources: WritingThoughts | PGC.org | Freelance-Zone

Cohere Coworking Launches First Small Business: Akinz

Cohere, a local shared office space is proud to announce the expansion of Akinz, one of its first small business members and purveyor of stylish clothing for an active lifestyle.

Akinz owner Suzanne Akin started designing clothing as a hobby in 2005, and as an avid wakeboarder and snowboarder, was inspired to create exciting clothing options for the action sports scene.

After moving to Fort Collins two years ago, Akin hoped to focus on growing her business, but also wanted to meet locals that were interested in art, design, and active lifestyles. She heard that a local business was offering “trial coworking days” in a shared office space as a way to build community among local freelancers, and couldn’t wait to check it out.

That business was Cohere coworking community at 215 Jefferson St., and Akin soon joined as the first official member.

“Suzanne came to Cohere every day for the first six months we were open,” says Angel Kwiatkowski, owner and Madame of Cohere. “During that time she created bright new designs for her clothing line, and every day, the coworking community members would offer suggestions about everything from t-shirt graphics to marketing strategies.”

Shortly after releasing its 2011 spring line, Akinz held a clearance sale at the Cohere space during which the business sold over $1,000 in merchandise in two hours.

Successful Akinz Sale at Cohere

Fellow Cohere members also gave Akin the motivation she needed to create local programs that have now become quite successful, like the annual Akinz Sunglasses at Night party and Akinz Bike to Work Day T-shirts with bike delivery.

“Being around other people that were running their own successful freelance businesses definitely helped boost the “I can do this” thought process,” says Akin. They are a great network of people that support me in everything I do!”

When she became flooded with beanie orders last winter (Akinz beanies are handmade and a big seller during the Colorado winter), Akin knew she had outgrown her Cohere membership.

“Around December 2010 I decided it was time for me to buy my own printing press so I could have more creative and financial freedom in printing my clothes, and that was the tipping point,” says Akin. “After that, there was no way to pretend that I could fit all of my business into our second bedroom and I knew it was time for Akinz to “graduate.”

Entrepreneurs who join coworking spaces get instant access to a huge network of brilliant, well connected professionals who are truly vested in one another’s success. Akinz is just the one of many startups that Cohere plans to help launch in the coming years.

Fort Collins shoppers can find Akinz clothing at The Wright Life, Killer Rabbit, and White Balcony, as well as online at Akinz.com and the new Akinz store at 432 S. Link Lane.

About Akinz

Akinz is a clothing line for those with an active lifestyle who expect the extraordinary. Started in 2005 in the studio apartment of founder Suzanne Akin, the Akinz motto, “Find your wings.” encourages men and women to find the one thing that motivates them to push life to the limit and reach for the sky. After all, life’s too short to settle for the ordinary. Find handmade Akinz clothing, accessories, and jewelry in local stores and online at Akinz.com.

About Cohere

Cohere is a collaborative shared office space and coworking community for freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers located in Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado. Coworking creates an environment that is more conducive to collaboration and success than coffee shops, executive suites, or private office space. Learn more about Cohere by requesting a free day pass at www.coherecommunity.com or by joining the Mobile Workforce meetup group.

 

Why Continuing Education Is Essential For Freelancers

Lots of people hear the word “freelance” and interpret it to mean “between jobs.” While it might be true that some aspects of a freelance job are less concrete than punching a clock in an office building every day (like location or regularity of paycheck) many freelancers feel more secure with a diverse array of clients and skills to choose from.

The key to sustaining freelance success is continuing your education, both in your chosen field and as a general businessperson. If it’s been a while since you’ve learned something new, here are reasons to think about whipping those brain cells back into shape.

1. What’s New Is Already Old

Technology advances at the speed of light. What’s cutting-edge one day is obsolete the next. While it might not happen quite as quickly, business practices are changing too. Although you might be comfortable in your knowledge chances are there are new and more efficient ways of approaching client needs that you haven’t heard about yet. The key to attracting and retaining the best clients is your ability to offer professional expertise in the most advanced areas of your field.

2. Better Education = More Pay

“Worker skills must evolve to meet the demands of an increasingly globalized, technology-driven workplace,” found a 2007 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management. Even in a recession, large businesses realize that investing in personal and professional development makes sense. You’re a business too. If you want to compete with the big boys and increase your hourly fee, maintaining a current level of education and certification is a no-brainer.

3. It Keeps You Connected

Taking a workshop, signing up for a seminar, or attending an industry conference are all easy ways to expand your professional network as well as your knowledge base. If you want to be tapped in to the pulse of your profession, you need to be talking, sharing, and learning from other freelancers and industry leaders. Armed with the collaborative skills you’ve learned from coworking, these individuals could become your future clients and business partners.

>>Next Week: Easy Ways To Continue Your Freelance Education

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